Loop Scheduling :: details for 2014-2015

I‘ve been putting off this post. It’s next up in the planning series, and I’ve delayed and delayed writing it. We have been busy- traveling, visiting family, having overnight guests, tackling swimming lessons and birthday parties- all good and wonderful summery happenings.

Then, of course, there was the procrastination. Planning a year of homeschool with this many kids and this many toddlers is just… well, it’s a splash of cold water on my enthusiastic optimism. I have to take my own advice and simplify, when what I really want to do is add all the wonderful things to my plan!

And then there’s this:



There is just nothing more glorious than emptying out bookshelf after bookshelf after bookshelf, I guess.

The closer we get to starting our homeschool year, the more I realize that I really am trying to feed 5,000 this year. Quite honestly, this might not work.


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That’s what it looks like to take a 2-year-old to the apricot orchard. I’m not entirely sure what the epic tantrum was about, but discovering that the “peachies” were good (and so were the other pickins, apparently… ahem), she eventually cheered up.

What’s this post about again? Oh right! Loops.

I just meant to say that I’ve taken so long to finish up my planning series because I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around how we’re gonna make this pig fly. But we will. Or He will. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

The Loopsplanning to teach from rest 2.jpg

I’ve scheduled two main blocks of time for our looping subjects this coming year- one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Each block gets an entire hour on the schedule, though we won’t be doing an hour’s worth of work (margin!).

Remember that I break my year up into 6-week-long chunks: terms I call Pre, Fall, Holiday, Winter, Lent/Easter, and Spring.

Here’s how this works. At 11:00, God willing (oh please Lord, be willing!), I’ll start the morning loop. We’ll work as long as we can during that hour- the entire hour if we are able to- but we won’t stress if we can’t. When we’re done for the day, I’ll make a note of where we are on the loop (I do this with a post-it flag) so we’ll know where to pick up the next day.

Right now, I’m looping subjects that I teach the kids directly. I’ll have to show you their independent worklists later (cough) after I’ve developed them (cough).

Morning Loop 11:00-12:00

Loop A (Pre, Holiday, and Lent/Easter terms):

Loop B (Fall, Winter, and Spring terms):

Afternoon Loop 2:00-3:00

Loop A (Pre, Holiday, and Lent/Easter terms):

Loop B (Fall, Winter, and Spring terms)

During my morning loop, for example, I’ll do three days of Latin with Tulip & Snap for every one time I do The Art of Poetry with Prim or do a check-in on her English work. I have taken a hard look at where we need to put more attention this year, and placed those subjects on the loop more often than the others. It’s all just an estimated ratio. I loop any teacher-directed subjects that we won’t be able to hit every day. (The only subjects we will do every day are piano, reading, morning time, and math- in a pinch, those can stand on their own until we get back on our feet and can add back in the loops).

Is a loop ideal? Probably not. I would like to do Latin with my kids 5 days a week, and ideally All About Spelling would be done every single day. But my happy perfect school day that lives in my head just doesn’t mesh with my reality right now, so this is where we are. I expect this will need to be tweaked a million times throughout the year to make it really work.

I know this seems a bit confusing. The basic premise of having a loop is that your lessons aren’t tied to particular days. Having a loop is like having a flow chart- you just do the next thing, and pick up wherever you left off last time. It leaves a lot of freedom for sick days or snow days or the-dishwasher-broke-and-I’m-on-the-phone-all-day-with-repairmen days. We don’t feel behind because we aren’t ever behind. We just pick up where we left off and carry on.

I’ve written more about loop scheduling here: What’s Working Now and Looping-Task Management for the (Recovering) Type A Mom. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments here!

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    When do you do circle time as a whole group? I’ve been encouraged to do the morning time but one of my kids is very anxious when we try to do it in the morning so I’ve started calling it group or circle time and am experimenting to see if it can work after lunch instead…

    • says

      We do Morning Time at 10 (or we may flip that with the reading/math hour at 9, depending on how hard it is to focus after babies wake up from their morning naps).

      Or, if the ruckus of babies everywhere is too anxiety producing in the mornings (and it very well could be), we’ll move it to after lunch (when babies go down for afternoon naps). Right now I have Quiet Reading Hour during the afternoon nap, but if we can’t get to Morning Time with any sense of peace then I’ll move things around.

      I have a feeling I’ll be moving my time blocks around throughout the year to make it work depending on whatever season we’re in- the toddler naptimes will shift, for example, and our day is going to have to shift with that.

      • says

        Thank you! My random comment while I’m thinking of it b/c it will escape me later(!) is whether you will do a review of the writing program you are using with your children at some point. I don’t think you have (unless I somehow missed it) and I’m getting a bit befuddled as I look at a few options for 1 or more of my kids to use next school year.

        • says

          Sure- I’ll probably write something up about it later in the year. We started using it last year (and really enjoyed it), but didn’t get deep into it enough for me to feel confident writing about it. I hope to really dig into it this year, though.

          For me, anything from IEW or CAP seems to be a good fit in some way or another. I may actually alternate writing programs between those two as we go along.

          • says

            Those are the 2 major ones I was looking at (I also looked at Introduction to Composition by Memoria Press this weekend). I just heard Andrew Pudewa at a classical teaching conference this weekend and his thoughts/methods of writing instruction resonate lots with how I taught writing/wanted to teach writing back in my public school teaching day(I was a rarity in my school. ha!) Thank you!

    • Dani says

      I have my preschooler going to preschool a few mornings a week, and it’s really hard to squeeze morning time into the morning before we head out the door to do preschool drop off on those days. So on these days, instead of stressing everyone out by trying to keep to our morning time routine, I shift it to the evening when my husband is home and we all have our “morning” time together as a family a couple days a week. He gets to join in on the fun of memorizing Shakespeare and that month’s Bible verses and it makes for a nice way to start winding down before we launch into our bedtime routines…

      • Jody says

        Wow! That is such a great idea!! I was going to plan on cramming everything in for morning time before we loaded up for preschool … or maybe doing morning time on the drive there somehow. ;)

        I like your idea much better and my husband would love it.


  2. says

    You are an amazing woman. Those boys tire me out just looking at the pictures, but I’m sure their sugar kisses must energize you!

    Even with just one little student left at home (but, giving myself a break because I am the age I am and not waking up full of energy to plow my way through the day) I still feel the need to loop. I wonder when do you fit in history and science? I was thinking I could put them in the loop, though I shouldn’t have to. It just seems there is always something, even just attitude, that keeps me from getting both done in a day.

    • says

      We do history and science at co-op on Fridays. We’ll read from our science text out loud (it’s Apologia) during Morning Time, and if the kids have assignments from their co-op teacher, they’ll get to those when they do their independent work (though I’m still not sure when they’ll have time for that. EEEEEEEEEK.)

      My friend Angela comes to teach the kids history on Thursday afternoons.

      So basically I pawn those off on others. :P I don’t think I’ve ever managed to get to both history and science on the same day…

    • says

      Math is first (right after morning chores, before reading lessons for Snap) every day. I only loop the stuff that doesn’t need to be hit every single day– or that I just can’t manage to hit every single day (which seems like a lot these days! sigh)

  3. says

    I feel like I should say I’m sorry first, but this made me laugh so hard!! My verse for the year is “His strength will be made perfect in my weakness”.

  4. says

    I lovvvvvveeee the loop! I started it on a small scale with some housekeeping last year. I am going to use it with some homeschooling this year. We use a curriculum, but I know exactly how the loops are going to be incorporated…they will help us a lot. I love our curriculum, but I can’t get into the “check off all the boxes every day” thing or I will lose my mind and turn into Ugly Mom. I plan to make heavy margins in our year, make a couple different loops, and plug our curriculum lesson plans into the loops.

  5. says

    This is brilliant! We have so many components with our “language arts” this year, that I think a loop will work fantastically for us. There’s no reason to do phonics, handwriting, reading comprehension, and grammar EVERY DAY. You just saved me a ton of stress. :)

  6. Beth says

    Ok as always thank you so much for your encouragement. You are such a blessings. Those babies are so sweet and I just love Posy’s meltdown. Boy I wish I could do that and still look so cute.

    I have two questions? Why do you like Seton for Prim and what is Prim doing during the afternoon loop?

    Praying for you!

  7. says

    I guess in a way I kind of do a loop scheduling of sorts with some of the subjects for my 1st grader. I have a checklist for the week broken down into daily and weekly work. I have little boxes under the days of the week for each daily subject. For daily work, instead of me putting down to do Lesson 1 on Monday, Lesson 2 on Tuesday, Lesson 3 on Wednesday, Lesson 4 on Thursday, and Lesson 5 on Friday, we just start where we left off the day before. That way, if for some reason we only made it through half a lesson on Monday, I simply pick up with where we left off in that lesson on Tuesday. And I simply check off the little box each day whenever we finish our work. This works really well so far. :)

  8. says

    You’re bringing back memories of my second son when he was a toddler with your photos. His antics rivaled those of your twins. He taught me to laugh at things that would have made me cry. You are so blessed! :)

  9. Karen says

    Thank you for this post, Sarah! I’ve been feeling exactly the same way about this next school year with a toddler in the mix. I’ve been on my knees praying about how I’m going to do this, and I only have half as many kids as you! This is the first year I homeschool two of my kids with the crazy energetic “all-boy” toddler demanding all of the attention. I keep reminding myself that I will provide my meager “loaves & fishes” and God will take care of the rest. I love the looping idea-I will definitely use it. I also love the picture of your boys emptying the bookshelves. Mine enjoys rearranging the DVD shelves!

  10. says

    I really like the idea of looping. I also think that for my personality, it would work really well. I won’t need to worry about it for a while since my oldest starts kindergarten next year, but it hurts my head all the same.

  11. says

    That picture of the twins pulling books off the shelf sure brought back memories! I think I have a picture on my old blog of my toddler twins emptying one of the bookcases… and then taking the shelf out, too. (I can laugh about it all now, though. You will too one day ;-)

    • says

      Just this morning I was thinking I needed to go digging around your archives to see all the mischief Pip and Pop were up to so that I could encourage myself that it IS actually possible to survive twin tornado toddlers. :)

      • says

        I think the thing they did that I remember most vividly never made it onto the blog: they flushed all my makeup, lotion, etc. (whatever was in the drawers and on the counter) down the toilet in probably less than two minutes. Fortunately, we did not have to unbolt the toilet to clear the jam, but still… that was an eye-opener.

        Now they’re almost 9 and they *have* calmed down, so there’s hope! But you know, I still sometimes hear things like, “Ouch! I burned myself on a light bulb! Me: “On a light bulb?” Twin: “Yeah, the one on the ceiling fan…”

        I probably just scared you, but really, it does get better. Hang in there! :-)

          • says

            Oh, I wish I could come over to help! I could at least pose a distraction ;-)

            In all seriousness, though, being on the other side of it now, I think I would have coped better with all the “twinado” chaos if I had just accepted it to some extent. I don’t mean that I wish I had let them do whatever they wanted — which would have been incredibly dangerous! — but if I had just reminded myself more frequently that the toddler destruction would only last a couple of years. (Actually, the dumping chaos doesn’t last for that long because they move onto different things. My 16 month old is doing all the same things as your boys are now, by the way, only there’s just one of him and he’s not walking yet.) Also, you need the sturdiest gates you can find. Don’t even start messing with the cheap ones.

            Something else that helped me at various times during the early years was hiring a mother’s helper. For a while I had a 13 year old homeschooled girl we knew coming over, and she would help with sweeping, laundry, entertaining whichever of the kids I needed her to… etc. Mostly that was when the twins were not toddlers — I can’t remember why she stopped coming over, but she probably had conflicting activities or something — but it would have helped immensely to have had somebody come play with those toddlers every once in a while!

  12. Kara says

    “…I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around how we’re gonna make this pig fly.”

    YES! This is exactly how I feel about this coming school year (my kids’ ages are 9, 7, 6, 4, 3, and nine month old twins!) I still have yet to make plans on paper…just ordered curriculum the other day. I think this is the part where I give my best everyday and prayerfully hand over all my anxieties and worries to God, right? I’ll be referring to your e-book a lot this year, Sarah. I know I’ll need the encouragment!

  13. says

    My days look a lot like yours, it seems. Yesterday I was chasing my toddler (turned one on July 4) around the house getting him out of the salamander tank, out of the toilets, picking up books he dumped, out of the dog food, you name it.

    I’m still so fascinated with the idea of looping subjects. I need to look at this more! Something tells me that I’ve done it without realizing it, and carefully considering which subjects to loop intentionally will be a huge help.

  14. Laura says

    One little trick someone taught me when I had young ones at the “pulling books off the shelf stage”…add an extra book or two on those bottom shelves to pack the books in tightly. Viola! It made a big difference and pretty much stopped the constant pulling out of books.

  15. Kendra says

    I came across your site while looking for HELP! Lol. This is my first year of homeschooling. We have 2 daughters that have already graduated high school and are already on their own. They both went through public school and had no problems. We have a son still at home who although a blessing is the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. He is 13 yrs old and we removed him last year after he had begun public school and due to ADHD had become so overwhelmed that it was making him physically ill. So this is such new territory for me and I’m struggling big time. My issues are trying to find something that works with my schedule (I work part time) and deal with ADD issues of my own. I just can’t find a way to make it all work along with the rest of life that has to happen. I’ve tinkered with the idea of maybe trying to stick to one subject for a whole week and trading out to another the next week. Because I’ve never homeschooled my mind keeps taking me back to a public school thinking schedule which although I know is overfilled with so much excess I still feel like I’m failing. I don’t mean to write a story but any advice with these challenges and I’d be so grateful.
    Blessings, Kendra

  16. says

    Last year, we had a move, a new baby, and the serious illness of a family member. So my strict schedule went out the window and I started “looping” without really knowing I was. I just did our reading, math, and Classical Conversations memory work daily and fit in science, spelling, history, etc. a few times a week and didn’t stress when it got done. Little did I know God was using those circumstances to show me looping could work and actually blessed our homeschool more than a strict schedule. Thanks for the ideas on how to plan for looping and sharing your schedule!
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  17. Jennifer says

    We have twin boys as well, but they are only a few months old. We now have seven, twelve and under. Three in diapers. I’m feeling you :). I long ago stopped filling the bottoms of our bookcases with books, only board books, coloring books, and toys go on those shelves now :).

  18. Felicia says

    Hi! I just love your blog and i recently watched the youtube video on Looping you did with Pam. This fall will be my first year Homeschooling my daughter who will be in 2nd grade. i have a preschooler as well.. I know you both said it’s better to start with one loop but i have made 2..hahahaha…. one is a morning or Language arts loop which contains Language, phonics and spelling and the other one is after lunch and contains history, science, art and health/safety… I feel good about the 2 loops and think we can handle it.. I wanted to loop all the language stuff because it’s in the same category and i didn’t want to have to hit it all in one day… What do you think am i scheduling it out too much.. ?? i don’t wanna stress myself out on my first year but i know i will also figure it out as i go and can make changes to if needed whenever. lol

    • says

      Hi Felicia! No- I don’t think you’re taking on too much at once. Those sound like excellent loops that will keep your frenzy-level low. :) Allllways a good thing. Keep us posted on how it goes! We’d love to hear. :)
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